Weeden and Browns make their debut in Detroit

After a long and eventful offseason, the Browns finally took the field last night in Detroit for their first exhibition game. Here are some first impressions.

– Brandon Weeden came out firing and hit a couple of beautiful throws. He clearly looks like an NFL quarterback. Then he went on to make some typical rookie mistakes and finished with a pedestrian stat line. He threw one ball that should have been intercepted and another that was intercepted. The key for Weeden will be how he learns from mistakes so we have a long way to go in figuring out how successful he will be in the NFL. I love the kid’s demeanor, however. He doesn’t hang his head and he seems to thrive on the challenges in front of him. He offers a refreshing contrast to Colt McCoy who often looks like he’s sulking on the sidelines.

– Travis Benjamin and Jordan Cameron stood out as potential weapons for Weeden. Benjamin flashed his speed and quickness and had no trouble catching the ball. Many have assumed that he’ll just be a slot receiver due to his size, but Benjamin showed he can play on the outside as well as he blew past a defender to catch a long pass from Weeden up the sideline. Cameron also showed his athleticism. He’s big and fast moved easily in space. Let’s hope his back injury isn’t serious. He was smiling as he left the field so it didn’t look too bad.

– I feel terrible for Mohamed Massaquoi. I saw him in camp last week and he looked great, and most camp observers thought he was back from his injuries and could help the receiving corps. But he got hit in the head on his first play of the game and suffered another concussion. Now his career may be in jeopardy.

– There will be a steep learning curve for some of the rookies. Mitchell Schwartz had a tough night at right tackle. He’s been having trouble in camp with Jabaal Sheard and then had trouble last night with the pass rush as well. He’ll have to develop quickly for the Browns as they don’t really have a viable option behind him. Oniel Cousins had looked good in camp but he looked terrible last night playing left tackle with the second team, so the Browns have to hope that Schwartz can win the right tackle job.

– Josh Gordon also had an inauspicious debut. Bernie Kosar pointed out that Gordon needs a lot of work in running routes, which isn’t unusual for rookie receivers. But we saw Travis Benjamin look like a veteran last night, so Gordon needs to step it up. He’s been out of football however and it shows.

– Montario Hardesty looked solid subbing for Trent Richardson as did the other running backs. The Browns should be able to establish a running game this season assuming Richardson’s injury heals as expected, and Hardesty gives them a solid one-two punch.

– I like what I saw of Brad Smelley. He’s not a devastating blocker, but he’s a real receiving threat out of the backfield. Owen Marecic has to show something in order to keep is job.

– The run defense looked terrible last night, but keep in mind that Ahtyba Rubin didn’t play. I watched the d-line closely and the tackles looked much better when Billy Winn and John Hughes were in there. There’s legitimate concern with the injury to Phil Taylor, but if these two rookies develop the line has a chance to be decent.

– They weren’t in there long, but Joe Haden and T.J. Ward looked fantastic last night, which makes the rumored suspension of Haden even that much more disappointing. But from a talent level the secondary has serious upside. Unfortunately, Dimitri Patterson left the game last night with an injury. Let’s hope it’s not serious.

– Colt McCoy had a nice night as he was able to move the ball with his feet and he made some nice throws. But we also saw some of the typical dumpoffs on third down. Overall I like him as one of the backups if the Browns decide to keep him, and frankly I’d be comfortable with Seneca Wallace and Thaddeus Gibson as well. Gibson looked good in garbage time as he drove the Browns to victory in the fourth quarter.

Overall, it was a sloppy game. There were plenty of hysterical reactions on Twitter, most notably from certain radio talk show hosts that were probably off their meds again. But I like the potential of this team and the young players, and I’m anxious to see what they look like when Trent Richardson rejoins the lineup.

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Clueless in Berea

No, this isn’t a column about Eric Mangini. The Browns are a disaster so far, and we’ll see if Mangini can turn this around. But as bad as things have been, Mangini and George Kokinis are obviously trying to build this team over the long haul. They aren’t going for quick fixes. Trading down in the first round to draft a center should have signaled that very clearly. Trading away Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards also made it clear that they were willing to sacrifice this season to stockpile draft picks. They’re also very mindful of the salary cap as well.

That doesn’t excuse this terrible start and I have no idea if this will work, but it’s way too early to give up on Mangini.

The real problem in Berea, however, is ownership. Today we were blessed with another handful of quotes from Randy Lerner. Most of them made little sense, as he’s distraught over the performance of the team and really doesn’t know what to do. But this quote stood out:

During Sunday’s 30-6 loss to the Bears, Lerner stood watching from the tunnel between the field and the locker room with equal parts disgust and anger written on his face.

He admitted that the whole quarterback fiasco “doesn’t look sensible.” As to why the Browns have been so reluctant to play Brady Quinn, he said “I haven’t been told about anything.”

This is beyond embarrassing. He hasn’t been told anything? He owns the damn team!

It’s obvious that Randy Lerner has never managed anything in his entire life. He seems to think that the secret to creating a great football organization is to pick qualified people and get out of the way, and with Lerner that means getting completely out of the way.

But life isn’t that simple, and management certainly isn’t that simple. Problems always arise. Sometimes they have to do with personalities, other times they have to do with flawed strategies. In the end you need a strong person at the top who can oversee what’s going on and ask the tough questions. The person at the top has to be willing to get his hands dirty. He has to be a problem solver, and he has to demand accountability from the GM and the head coach. That has never happened in Berea under Lerner’s watch.

You don’t have to get involved like a Daniel Snyder. Rather, you have to stay on top of what Mangini and Kokinis are doing, and grill them about things that don’t seem to make sense.

The quarterback situation is a prime example. I was willing to give Mangini the benefit of the doubt, but it’s obvious now that the process he used to select and then announce a starter only days before the opener blew up in his face. As the owner, Lerner should be on top of this situation. What’s the plan? Instead, Lerner has no clue what’s going on. That’s a stunning admission.

At least Lerner seems to realize that he’s utterly incompetent to oversee the Browns, as he made vague references to needing help. But, his statements are complete gibberish:

He indicated that he wasn’t ready to give up on Mangini despite being obviously distraught about the state of the team. But he did strongly indicate that it’s time for him to bring in a football authority who can help straighten out this mess.

“There’s absolutely no question about that,” he said. “The highest priority that I have is a strong, credible, serious leader within the building to guide decisions in a far more conspicuous, open transparent way. I can maybe defend decisions by saying I’ve sought advice and I’ve brought people in, and we’ve gone to see people — and I think my highest priority is to have a stable figure that represents the voice that explains the decisions.

Huh? It’s not a matter of explaining decisions. Sure, the Browns could use that, but before that happens you need someone who understands the long-term strategy.

Here’s another gem:

“We need as many credible, serious eyes and ears assessing this situation as is possible,” he said.

No, you need to take control a be a leader and manage the situation. You don’t need a bunch of other “experts” telling you what to do. You’ll get all sorts of different opinions and that will just confuse the situation. Sit Mangini and Kokinis down and grill them about what’s being done now and what’s the long-term plan. If you buy into their long-term approach, then have the guts to go out in public and defend it.

The Browns are pitiful right now, but they have added draft picks and have managed the cap well. These performances would be much more problematic had the Browns gone out and spent a ton of money on free agents. In that respect last season was a much bigger disappointment. Rookie wide receivers rarely make an impact, so the Browns should benefit from having Robiskie and Massaquoi getting experience this year, as painful as that has been to watch. Alex Mack is also learning on the job but should be an anchor on the line for years. Today we also saw some inspired play from the defense. Few good teams are built overnight.

As for the current situation, it’s obvious that Brian Daboll and Mangini have no idea what to do on offense. Long-term, the Browns will likely have new quarterbacks next season, but we need to see some progress with the offense to get this season under control. Perhaps some changes need to be made with the offensive staff? Perhaps they need to commit more to Cribbs and the running game? Perhaps running a couple of screen passes or roll-outs would help slow down all the blitzes that are killing the Browns? A good manager would be grilling Mangini about these things and demanding some changes.

Perhaps the only solution is to hand the reins to Bernie Kosar. Hell, why not pay him $5 million per year to run things and handle the management issues? Bernie can certainly use the money, and Lerner hands out money like candy.

Report: Browns trade Braylon Edwards to the Jets

I’ll give the new regime credit for moving fast on this one. ESPN is reporting that Braylon Edwards has been traded to the New York Jets in exchange for special teams player Jason Trusnik and draft picks.

Yesterday I asked whether it was time to give up on Braylon Edwards in light of the emergence of Mohamed Massaquoi and with Brian Robiskie as another young receiver that needs playing time to develop. Apparently the Browns were asking the same question. I think it’s a great move, and I think we can officially call Edwards a bust in Cleveland.

Is it time to give up on Braylon Edwards?

Braylon Edwards 1

The last 24 hours have not been kind to Braylon Edwards. First, he dropped a pass on the first drive of the game yesterday vs the Bengals, and then watched Mohamed Massaquoi’s coming out party. Then, late last night (early this morning), it has been alleged that Edwards punched a friend of LeBron James. Now we’re hearing all sorts of things about a LeBron/Edwards feud.

As anyone surprised by this? What’s wrong with this guy?

Given Massaquoi’s performance, and with Brian Robiskie on the roster, should the Browns be wasting any time at all with Braylon Edwards in the lineup?

It will be interesting to see if the Browns or the NFL suspends Edwards for this incident. In many ways, they would be doing the Browns a favor. Edwards will not be a part of this organization long term. Why not focus on developing the young guys?

Photo by Bill Moore. Copyright Bullz-Eye.com, LLC

Trade Edwards, don’t draft Crabtree

Great news today from Tony Grossi:

The Browns have all but crossed off Michael Crabtree as a candidate for the No. 5 overall pick, said a source.

The Texas Tech receiver brought a diva attitude on his visit to the club facility last week and did not impress coach Eric Mangini and others, the source said. In fact, Crabtree was described by some in the building as “not nice.” After Crabtree left, Mangini secured last-minute workouts with borderline first-round receivers Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina, Kenny Britt of Rutgers and Mohamed Massaquoi of Georgia.

For weeks I’ve been hearing commentators and bloggers arguing that the Browns had to take Crabtree if they traded Edwards. This thinking made absolutely no sense. Just because a trade would open a need at wide receiver doesn’t mean that you have to burn the #5 pick on a receiver. I was encouraged when news broke that the Browns were working out Hicks and Britt, and now this news suggests Crabtree is off the table.